Texas Masonry Council Update

Words: Tony Topping

Words: Tony Topping, Michelle Queen
Photos: TMC

TMC is excited to have Mackie Bounds of Brazos Masonry take over as our new President of the Board of Directors. Mackie is someone that should be very familiar to MCAA members--he has given countless hours of his time working with local and national masonry associations. He helped start the Central Texas Mason Contractors Association and was also involved in the creation of the Texas Construction Association (TCA). TCA has become one of the most important groups at the Texas Capitol and is the voice for subcontractors of all trades in Texas. 

Mr. Bounds has accomplished many things within MCAA— holding a range of positions from Treasurer to Chairman of the Board and receiving the organization’s highest honor of being inducted into the 2018 MCAA Hall of Fame.

Now, Mr. Bounds has turned his attention back to his home state of Texas. He has been involved with the Texas Masonry Council for the majority of his career, with his most visible role being the auctioneer at TMCs Annual Live Auction. He has a gift of creating a competitive edge and encouraging TMC members to bid against one another to see who can give the most money for a great cause. 

As of January 1, 2021, our new President of the Board has brought renewed focus and momentum to a familiar cause - workforce development.  That momentum was started well before the beginning of the new year, TMC leadership had recognized the need to be more involved in recruiting the next generation of masons into the industry. The question on everyone’s mind was, “how are we going to do it?” TMC decided to get serious about the answers.

Visit To North Carolina

The first stop on this journey was a visit to our friends at the North Carolina Mason Contractors Association (NCMCA). The North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association is known for its success in setting up more than 100 high school masonry programs in their home state.  Under the leadership of Lynn Nash and Ryan Shaver, the NCMCA program is a model program and Mackie wanted to bring those ideas home to Texas. In late 2019, Mr. Shaver was kind enough to take a delegation of TMC members around to North Carolina high schools to see the excitement of the students and the passion of the instructors firsthand.

Back in Texas, the focus of the February 2020 Committee Meetings and Board Meeting became Workforce Development. TMC planned the Committee Meetings in conjunction with the SkillsUSA contest, hosting the meeting at the Waco-based Texas State Technical College (TSTC) campus where all of the industry stakeholders could interact and engage with one another. TMC members were in-person, watching local high school students compete for a chance to advance to the SkillsUSA state competition in Corpus Christi, Texas (Spring 2020). It is important for the students to meet TMC masonry contractors and discuss potential career paths available via our industry, as well as it is important for the contractors to be involved in local masonry programs to truly see the value of their support to programs like Masonry Rock!

The dual-event interactions worked and the TMC Board of Directors later voted to approve the creation of a new Masonry Education Coordinator position. The Masonry Education Coordinator would be tasked with developing relationships with Texas high schools and showing them all of the reasons why masonry construction is a worthwhile course of study. Just as important, the MEC would be in charge of connecting Texas high school students with TMC’s local contractors and placing them in part- and full-time jobs. In short, we want to help schools develop new full-time masonry classes and then get the students in those classes hired by TMC contractors.

Ready. Set. ROCK!

It may be hard to remember, but the world was a different place on March 1, 2020. We had just begun to start reaching out to schools. Sometimes it was as easy as walking in and introducing ourselves to the staff. We were coordinating booths at career fairs, finalizing our job posting for the Masonry Education Coordinator, and making big strides in pursuit of our new initiative. The rest is well-documented history. All across the State, students left school for spring break and many did not return as schools closed for the rest of the semester.  Our plan to be in schools on a daily basis suddenly ground to a halt. 

Over the summer months, it became clear that Texas schools were planning to reopen for the Fall semester and many districts would be offering virtual class options. This school year is going to look much different than ever before, but it is time to adapt and figure out how to reach students in new and exciting ways.  

Texas’ Own Masonry Education Coordinator (MEC)

TMCreleased its job posting for the Masonry Education Coordinator position and immediately received hundreds of applications from across the country. Many experienced teachers were interested in the position, but TMC contractors insisted the position required a trained mason with experience laying brick and the ability to connect with high school students. Surprisingly, the majority of applicants had never laid a brick in their teaching careers, and thus the search for our MEC proved to be a more complicated and lengthy process than anticipated. 

The Best in Texas

The new Masonry Rocks Career Program is designed to assist schools in creating full-time masonry programs in Texas High Schools. It is TMC’s long-term goal to see hundreds of successful programs, but there are several programs across the state that are worthy of recognition and support. There are two well-known programs that have become models for other districts to follow--Grand Prairie High School (GPHS) and Harlingen High School (HHS).

Both GPHS and HHS offer full-time masonry classes taught by long-time masonry instructors--Mr. Bud Johnson (Grand Prairie) and Mr. Victor Santillan (Harlingen). Both gentlemen have a passion for teaching masonry to young people and truly believe it is a successful career path. These educators have also seen many successes in the competition world--Mr. Johnson taught the 2018 SkillsUSA Texas Masonry Champion while Mr. Santillan taught the 2019 champion!

It was through TMC's relationship with these high school programs and their program graduates/competitors that we met Kevin Ruiz. Kevin received his masonry education and training under the direction of Mr. Merritt “Bud” Johnson at Grand Prairie High School. He took his first masonry course as a sophomore and quickly realized he had a talent for laying brick, where he would go on to win the 2019 SkillsUSA Masonry competition. After graduating high school, Kevin was able to comfortably support himself and pay for college-level classes all from the masonry work he was completing. By learning a lucrative skill in high school, Kevin has been able to build a career that can pay the bills and set him up for future successes. Today, Kevin teaches that important lesson to high school students across Texas -- masonry construction rocks!

An Early Success

The first masonry Day with the newly branded Masonry Rocks Career Program took place at Waxahachie High School, a beautiful campus in Waxahachie, Texas located just south of Dallas-Fort Worth. Kevin, alongside TMC members Mel Smith and Wayne Smith, conducted two days of hands-on training for Junior and Senior construction students. The Masonry Days were a complete success, fully illustrating to the school’s administrators the value of adding a full-time masonry class to next year’s CTE course offerings. Last month, TMC received the exciting news that Waxahachie High School is adding a Masonry 1 class to the Fall 2021 course catalog. Waxahachie ISD’s Dustin Binniker, Career and Technical Education Director, had this to say about the new masonry course:

“The construction program at WHS continues to prepare students for a life beyond high school as our students graduate and enter the workforce. The construction industry has experienced years of consecutive growth and the demand for workers remains strong, as the more experienced workers and managers are starting to retire, as this will further illustrate the need for more trained workers in this field. Adding the masonry pathway to our course offerings allows us to keep up with the in-demand jobs in the region and ensure a lifetime of success for our students.” 

A Busy Spring Schedule

TMC began 2021 with the goal of adding masonry classes to Texas schools, and though TMC has already seen success--it is our goal to have that same success at dozens of other schools throughout the year. There are Masonry Days scheduled through March and April at school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio areas. With each success and each new Masonry Day, TMC now routinely receives calls from new school districts interested in introducing their students to successful careers in our trade. It is our mission to spread the Masonry Message and ensure that the legacy of our industry remains resilient. 

In the words of industry icon and mentor, Ryan Shaver: “It's all about building relationships. If you’re a local mason contractor and you don’t know who is at your local high school...that's your fault.” If you are a contractor in Texas, contact TMC today and let us connect you with your local high school programs and future workforce. TMC continues to spread the masonry message with pride-- if you are a contractor in the United States or abroad, get involved and help your local associations recruit and train the next generation of skilled masons and craftspeople.

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